Originally posted by Mark Stewart
With the recent announcement that mods will make their way to console owners of Fallout 4 after the next major expansion, Far Harbor, it got me thinking: do we need mods on console games?
I understand why mods have their place in everyone’s hearts. They allow players to expand the game in ways that go beyond what was intended by the developer, and extend the lifetime of the game substantially. They permit skilled craftsmen to make games within games, and weave new storylines or patch up ones that don’t make sense. Articles come up all the time detailing people who are utilising the ability to mod games in new and wonderful ways, from just adding a new weapon, to entirely new regions like Alexander Velicky did with Falskaar within Bethesda’s last massive open world game, Skyrim.
With all that said, I’m not sure console players of Fallout 4 need the mod experience.
Part of the joy of console gaming is the simplicity of it. You sit down, install the game, and play it. Simple as that. The sheer number of people using the exact same setup means that bug testing can be more rigorous, and optimisation more specific, so the gaming experience becomes smoother as a result. Even with regards to developer published DLC, they have a larger team of professional staff to meticulously test every asset before sending it out to players.
I feel that Bethesda’s toe dip into console mods could go a few ways, and none of them seem to be ideal.
On the PC, it’s a free and open world. If you want to make a mod that turns the dragons of Skyrim into the worlds most beloved childrens locomotive, you go for it. Copyright is thrown out the door, and it gets labelled under “fair use”. The copyright checks for moving this mod over to the consoles will probably be a little more stringent. According to Paris Nourmohamadi, Bethesdas Senior Brand Manager, “you build it on the PC, you upload it to Bethesnet, and you can share it with all your friends on Xbox One and Playstation” which means that all the mods will go through Bethesdas servers. If they want to avoid a lawsuit or two, they will most likely have a selection of guidelines and rules for which mods can be uploaded, and a wait time associated with moving them across too. This means that console players will end up with a diminished selection of mods to choose from, rather than the veritable rainbow of variety and lunacy that is the mods list on PC, and that could sour the experience for some that are expecting that kind of freedom.
A lot of the more impressive mods on PC leverage the higher specs of some custom made rigs. They work on the idea that the base game was made to work on a wide range of machines, and thus it won’t be able to make the most of the player’s specific build. This optimisation isn’t an issue with consoles, but it means that a great chunk of mods will become redundant. Because there isn’t this disparity of processing power between console players, there’s no need to create a mod that improves visual fidelity, nor will there be much ability to do so without rewriting the entire game engine.
A large part of the PC mod community is utilising a blend of different mods to create your desired game. Occasionally this causes issues, but if you have a rough idea of how to make mods yourself, you then have the ability to delve into the files and construct a work around. With the mods that are transferred to console, the player doesn’t have that luxury, as the platform they’re playing the game on, wasn’t the platform that the mod was made on, with many players not even having the option to move to the PC.
It’s a bold move by Bethesda to bring this ability to the console market, but there are very few other developers, if any, out there that have the pedigree to succeed with it. I’m intrigued to see how this meshes with their future DLC plans however, and if this will have a positive or negative impact on the console space.
Overall, I feel that mods are a wonderful thing, that were birthed from the large discrepancy in PC performance, the idea that the platform on which you’re playing the game is the same as the platform it was created on, and that you have an unparalleled marketplace on which to get your work out there. With these core pillars removed, it shall be an interesting journey to witness whether this is the first step in console mods, or a step in the wrong direction.